My first story is going to be the most recent discovery as it’s the one that touches my heart the most. After years of working on my ancestors, for the first time, I had the honor to help someone else reconnect with her father.
This is a story about a chain of events over 40 years in the making. It’s about a very sweet girl who dated my brother in high school. It’s about her father who died when she was 21. It’s about her and me reconnecting on Facebook a couple of years ago. It’s about the horrible floods that happened in Colorado in 2013.
Recently, Marianne sends me a message saying she hopes thinks are okay out here in Colorado after the summer floods. Things were pretty bad here. Colorado is a special place to her, after all. Her dad is buried out here. WHAT? You guys were all from Massachusetts! There’s a story to be told in the history, but what is important is that her dad was here when he passed away. He died of a brain hemorrhage, just like my father did. She was 21 and I was 28. It was way too young for either of us to lose a parent.
1st Sergeant Ward Lowe Tilburg served in World War II and Korea. He was buried in Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado, Plot P4123.
My heart skips a beat. Marianne came out to Colorado when he was buried and had lost the only picture she had of his grave. Road trip! I would absolutely LOVE to give her a picture of his grave. I would for her to be able to share it with her family; for her children and grandchildren to see where their patriot is buried. I have a plan!
Doug (my husband and expert genealogy helper and photographer) and I head to Denver on beautiful, sunny, late summer day. Fort Logan is just as pretty as Arlington National Cemetery. The grave markers are perfectly placed in symmetry on rolling hills of green grass and overlooking ponds that reflect the stones, trees, blues skies and wispy Colorado clouds. There are a couple of military funerals taking place this day. Older vets are in the lobby awaiting their time to attend the grave side services and pay tribute to the newly deceased. Then, lo and behold…
Reservist Richard Paine hears of my request for an honor guard to be at 1st Sergeant Tilburg’s grave while we take pictures for Marianne. ”M’am, it would be my honor.” Really? Really, you would do that? “Yes, m’am it would be my honor. Just let me change into my uniform”.
We learn Richard volunteers for Honor Guard at Fort Logan. This is what he wants to do. This young man is about 20 years old and he wants to be Honor Guard! And, while there’s no funeral today for him to attend, he’s happy to stand at 1st Sergeant Tilburg’s grave so we can take pictures. I’m crying. This is a HUGE moment. He poses for many, many pictures. “Take as many as you need.” I hug him as we leave and tell him how proud his parents must be. I tell him he has no idea what this has meant to me and to the daughter of this man and her family. He repeats, “It is my honor.”
I always talk to my ancestors when I’m at their graves. I could do no less for my friend. ”Ward, I’m here for Marianne. She sends her love. She misses you so much.” I’m crying like crazy. It is such a gift I have been given.
It is an absolutely beautiful day in Colorado. My heart is full of joy and love.
Tip: There are 131 National Cemeteries in 39 states. There are also State Veterans Cemeteries. Most are indexed to make it easy to learn where your relative might be located.